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Did you know that your dog has 700 muscles and about 320 bones (depending on the length of the tail)?

The muscles weave their way across the bones, acting as pulleys whilst the bones are the levers. When the muscles pull on the bones then movement occurs.

Muscles attach to the bones via tendons and most muscular injuries occur at the muscular tendinous junction where the muscle inserts onto a bone. These STRAINS, commonly known as “torn” muscles will mend given time, but instead of the muscle fibres knitting together smoothly as before, the new muscle fibres are made up of a different type of collagen & will become knotted and therefore shorten the muscle thus increasing the risk of re-injury and causing reduced range of motion.(see below) and click here to see a video

In sight hounds the gracilis muscle is very prone to strains. Also known as the “0-60” muscle, this commonly tears when the dog goes from a standing start to speeds of up to 45 mph without being warmed up. It is commonly known as a dropped muscle in the racing world. Fresh strains are often seen as a bulging muscle which is tender when touched, may be bruised and feels hot and swollen. If you see this in your dog then apply ICE contained in a plastic bag for at least 10 minutes to reduce the swelling and act as a painkiller, repeat 3 times per day for a couple of days. Repetitive strains here lead to gracilis myopathy indicated by the dog throwing out the hock and having a shortened stride and jerky movements when the leg is raised.


Depending on your dogs’ breed they will have a different make up of muscle fibres, e.g. a Lurcher will have more “fast twitch” or anaerobic muscle fibres in their legs than an Alaskan Malamute that has more “slow twitch” aerobic fibres for example.

This is all to do with how form and function vary between different breeds of dogs.

If you looked at a Lurchers leg muscles they would be relatively white compared to those of a Malamute, WHY? Well because a Lurcher needs to have fast but short bursts of speed so doesn’t need so much sustained blood flow to their legs. Malamutes on the other hand need sustained blood flow to maintain endurance over long periods of time. The redness of the fibres, or the lack of it denotes the amount of red blood cells (the ones that deliver oxygen) in the muscles


· Changes in posture i.e. the way they sit or stand. Do they have a roached (arched) or sway (dipped) back? Are they fully weight bearing on all 4 limbs?

· Changes in gait i.e. the way they walk, trot or run. Do they appear to be lame or limping? Do they carry or throw a leg?

· Are there changes to their activities of daily living i.e. are they reluctant to exercise, jump in the car or on furniture, struggle with stairs etc

· Have they become withdrawn, grumpy or reactive to being touched or groomed in certain places?

· Has their performance dropped off i.e. slowed down, unable to turn as fast etc

· Do they have an orthopaedic condition e.g hip dysplasia or arthritis? The muscles either side of the affected joints will be acting as splints to support the joint. Also, other muscles in different areas will be compensating for the condition too.

In the human sporting world, remedial, sports and deep tissue massage is recognised as an integral part of the athlete’s routine. Your sporting dog is an athlete too! However, it isn’t only sporting dogs that get muscular & soft tissue injuries. Certain actions, such as running & slipping on laminate floors for example will cause micro tears to your dog’s muscles. Dogs that get on & off the furniture, up & down stairs frequently etc are all prone to repetitive strain injury.

And, lets face it as WE age we get aches and pains, & yes… so do our dogs.

As a fully trained Clinical Canine Massage practitioner, I can help resolve your dogs’ muscular and soft tissue injuries & issues.

Whether they are sporting dogs or they have an orthopaedic condition such as hip dysplasia, arthritis or have had surgery for cruciate ligament, luxating patella etc then structured clinical remedial massage is proven to be beneficial.

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